20 free museums in Sydney
The Calyx is one of the best free museums in Sydney
Sydney is lucky to be blessed with some awesome free museums!
Museums make a great rainy day out, great budget activity and are packed full of interesting info to boot.
Here’s our list of twenty of the best free museums in Sydney.
Free Museums in Sydney CBD
The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Sydney’s best museums
1. National Maritime Museum
Awesomely entry to the main section of the Australian National Maritime Museum is free! Your free entry will give you access to the permanent galleries and under 5’s playzone. Heaps to see and do and you can still go and gaze at the Tall Ships (just not enter them).
Address: 2 Murray Street, Darling Harbour NSW 2000
2. Sydney Observatory
The Sydney Observatory should be on everyone’s to do list. Located on Observatory Hill (which overlooks Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge) the views alone are worth it! It is free to enter the grounds of the Observatory and to view the museum. The museum contains astronomy displays as well as permanent exhibitions. Enjoy the digital planetarium, a Flag Staff and Time Ball and telescopes.
Address: 1003 Upper Fort Street, Millers Point NSW 2000
3. ANZAC Memorial Hyde Park
The ANZAC Memorial is a tribute to the Australian men and women who served in the Great War of 1914 – 1918. The Memorial itself is beautiful and a fitting tribute to our service men and women. The memorial also includes a museum and permanent exhibitions.
Address: Hyde Park, Sydney NSW 2000
4. The Rocks Discovery Museum
The Rocks Discovery Museum is a great little museum to learn about Sydney’s (especially The Rocks) history. Enjoy moving through the levels of the historic building to learn about the past from pre-1788 to the present.
Address: Kendall Lane, The Rocks (enter via Argyle Street) Sydney NSW 2000
5. Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art is a contemporary art gallery located at Circular Quay. Visitors will enjoy three levels of art (with two levels permanent and the third level housing changing exhibitions). Kids are welcome with a great kids section. There is a gallery library and free tours run daily. And as a bonus you will enjoy some fabulous harbour views.
Address: 140 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
6. Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is arguably Australia’s best Art Museum. Visitors will enjoy Australian, Aboriginal, European, Asian and contemporary art with exhibitions changing regularly.
Address: Art Gallery Road, The Domain Sydney NSW 2000
7. Government House
Government House is definitely worth a visit for its historical value as one of Australia’s oldest buildings. Entry to the House is by Guided Tour only (check website for details).
Address: Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000
8. Brett Whitely Studio and Museum
Brett Whitely was an award winning Australian artist who traveled the world creating art of various mediums including landscapes, portraitsm and sculpture. The Brett Whitely Studio is now a museum owned by the NSW State Government. The Studio has remained the same as he left it including furniture, handwritten notes, photographs, his music collection and art equipment. It also features a private separate lounge room.
Address: 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
9. The Reserve Bank of Australia Museum
The Reserve Bank of Australia Museum may be small in size but is definitely worth a visit. Visitors will enjoy learning about the history of Australian bank notes. See some old paper notes including some historical ones. You will also get to see counterfeit notes, art work for old paper notes and details of some notes that didn’t make the cut!
Address: 65 Martin Place, Sydney NSW 2000
10. The Calyx at The Royal Botanic Gardens
So whilst The Calyx is not technically a museum it is an excellent exhibition space in the Sydney CBD. Check their website for current exhibition details.
Address: Royal Botanic Gardens
Read on to find out some of the best free museums in Sydney’s suburbs.
Free Museums in Sydney suburbs
Jaw dropping views from Cockatoo Island
11. Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island must rank as one of Sydney’s best free days out. The history of Cockatoo Island dates back to pre-settlement where the Aboriginal people called the Island Waremah. In 1839 Sir George Gipps, the Governor of NSW, chose Cockatoo Island as the site of a new penal establishment to alleviate overcrowding on Norfolk Island. Convicts were put to work building prison barracks, a military guardhouse and official residences. And the rest is history. Today many of these buildings still stand and make for a fascinating day out. Note the island is accessible by ferry only.
Address: Cockatoo Island
12. Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre
Accessible only by ferry The Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre is a fantastic place to soak up the history of the Royal Australian Navy. Visitors will also enjoy seeing historical Garden Island including the earliest known graffiti in Australia, the first grass tennis court in Australia and a heritage rose garden. There is a rooftop viewing platform with spectacular 360 degree harbour views.
Address: Garden Island Public Access Precinct, Sydney NSW 2000
13. Quarantine Station
Quarantine Station (known as Q Station) is an amazing historical site located at North Head on the shores of Sydney Harbour in Manly. Once the site of Sydney’s former Quarantine Station, today visitors come to enjoy the views, learn the history of the area and swim at Quarantine Bay. The buildings throughout the area are fascinating to wander through, make sure to visit the Visitors Centre and Quarantine Beach.
Address: 1 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly NSW 2095
14. Nicholson Museum
The Nicholson Museum is actually Australia’s oldest university museum. It is also home to the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere with artefacts from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the Near East. With over 30,000 artefacts to view including an Egyptian mummy you won’t leave disappointed.
Address: Manning Rd, Camperdown NSW 2006
15. La Perouse Museum
The La Perouse Museum is housed in a historic cable station that was built in 1881. Visitors will enjoy learning about local Indigenous history and viewing a sea life photographic exhibition. Views across the ocean are amazing! Enjoy learning about the French navigator Jean François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse who arrived in Botany Bay in 1788.
Address: 1542 Anzac Parade, La Perouse NSW 2036
16. Fairfield City Museum and Gallery
Fairfield City Museum & Gallery is host to a recreated pioneer village (with some interesting houses, shops and a schoolhouse on display) as well as exhibition spaces. Enjoy the old artefacts and the art! The museum also hosts various workshops and events throughout the year.
Address: 634 The Horsley Drive, Smithfield NSW 2164 (entry via Oxford Street Smithfield)
17. The Manly Art Gallery & Museum
Situated on the harbour at Manly, the Manly Art Gallery & Museum is a Sydney treasure. Visitors will enjoy temporary and permanent art and historical exhibitions.
Address: West Esplanade Reserve, Manly NSW 2095
18. SPASM Museum
The SPASM Museum (which stands for The Society for Preservation of Artefacts of Surgery & Medicine) really does put the ‘interesting’ back in museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of health care and its recent advancements. Included in its nine rooms of displays are some eerie items including early syringes and knives, straight jackets and ancient surgical instruments. Entry is a gold coin donation.
Address: Building 6, Gladesville Hospital Victoria Road, Gladesville NSW 2111
19. Hawkesbury Regional Museum
The Hawkesbury Regional Museum is an excellent free museum in Sydney. Located in a historical house, ‘Howe House’ the museum is dedicated to the history of the Windsor and Hawkesbury region. Visitors can enjoy a tour of Howe House.
Address: 8 Baker Street, Windsor NSW 2756
20. The Australiana Pioneer Village
So this one sneaks in even though it isn’t quite free and not even exactly a free museum in Sydney. But The Australiana Pioneer Village is a great place to visit to soak up the history of Australia. This open air village includes relocated historical buildings, cottages, sheds, a church, a police station, a bank and other businesses, a school and a blacksmiths. Visitors will also enjoy a sheep shearing show, picnic facilities and lovely green open spaces.
Address: Rose Street, Wilberforce NSW 2756
And one bonus…….The Woodford Academy
Sneaking in even though it is technically in the Blue Mountains, Woodford Academy had to be included because it is rumoured to be one of Australia’s most haunted sites. It is also the oldest complex of colonial buildings in the Blue Mountains. Two adults and two children are $15.00 entry….. only open the third Saturday of each month.
Address: 90-92 Great Western Highway, Woodford 2778 NSW
Where is your favourite free museum in Sydney?